Authorities: No conspiracy in withholding public records in Gauthier rest stop caseThe Minnesota State Patrol and the Duluth Police Department repeatedly denied requests for information on an incident concerning Rep. Kerry Gauthier. (Photo: 2011 file / News Tribune)
Though the Minnesota State Patrol and the Duluth Police Department repeatedly denied requests for information on an incident concerning Rep. Kerry Gauthier, representatives from both agencies said Thursday there was no attempt to cover up for the state legislator.
“There’s no conspiracy here,” Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said.
The News Tribune initially requested police data on Gauthier on Aug. 8 and was told that none existed pertaining to the Thompson Hill incident.
Duluth Deputy Police Chief Robin Roesser said police initially searched a database that excludes high-profile cases such as Gauthier’s, which is why it didn’t show up.
“It’s a database shared by several law enforcement agencies,” he said. “It was a high-profile case, shielded so only a few users could see it.”
The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act requires certain information on calls for service to police to be made public, regardless of whether the call results in a criminal investigation. That information includes the date and time of the call, the agencies involved, the nature of the request of the activity being complained of, a brief reconstruction of the event and witnesses to the incident.
Roesser, who was aware of the investigation last week, called the News Tribune on Aug. 10 and said he had been alerted to the information request and wanted to provide the paper with all of the public information he could. That afternoon, however, he wrote to the News Tribune saying the department had no public records that were “responsive” to the information request.
Roesser said Thursday that he was given the advice to not provide the records by the city attorney’s office.
“On a high-profile case like that, I don’t want to get it wrong,” Roesser said. “There was liability on both sides.”
The State Patrol also denied repeated requests for information listed as public under the state law.
The News Tribune requested the data from the agency Aug. 9 and was told by spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske the next day that the State Patrol did not “have any public data responsive” to the request.
After the News Tribune replied that the patrol had to release certain information in the case under state law, on Tuesday the patrol said it was investigating Gauthier in connection with an incident on July 22 at the Thompson Hill rest area following to “a report of suspicious activity.”
The patrol declined to release other information listed as public under state law, including a factual reconstruction of the events, saying it was “criminal investigative data” and thus non-public.
Roeske said Wednesday that the State Patrol was not attempting to conceal information.
“We have a disagreement on what is public and private data,” Roeske said. “It’s a matter of interpretation of what the statute is.”
While the records released by the city show that Duluth police finished their investigation on July 31, the reports were sent to St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin for his review on Wednesday, the day after the News Tribune first published the news of the investigation.
Roesser said the delay in sending the records to the attorney’s office was because it was a high-profile case.
“High-profile cases typically take a little bit longer,” he said. “We wanted to have everything done right … and we tend to be a little bit more deliberate on these cases to make sure we got it right.”
Deputy City Attorney Alison Lutterman, who typically handles data requests for the city, did not return a request seeking comment Thursday.